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You Got to Burn to Shine: New and Selected Writings

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The amazing thing about the poet John Giorno is that he’s alive. A fixture in New York counterculture since the 1960s, Giorno had sex with nearly everyone in it, from Andy Warhol to Keith Haring, who, it turns out, may have been HIV-positive during their 1982 encounter. In a collection of poems and memoirs titled You Got to Burn to Shine: New and Selected Writings, Giorno revisits, with ungrammatical charm, his promiscuous youth, and tells how he’s rechanneled his carnal passions into humanitarian ones through AIDS outreach. A sybaritic Buddhist and former stockbroker, Giorno is a bundle of tantalizing contradictions. His sunny demeanor adds a comic dimension to his corrosively fatalistic poems. Having earned his stripes in the underground, he deserves broader recognition for his experiments with collage poetry and for his memoirs, which are picaresque snapshots of New York before and during the AIDS blight.